The secret of ramen
When noodles are served with soup and toppings in a single bowl we call this Ramen.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the best ramen comes simply by the balance between these three elements.
The secret of noodles ~ flour
1. History of flour
Wheat has been used for more than 10,000 years.
Wheat is considered to be one of the first crops cultivated by humankind, as wheat ears and grains were found in many ancient sites. Human beings have already eaten wheat more than 10,000 years ago.
Change of milling technology
It may be said that the history of flour began with the strong desire of human beings to enjoy more tasty food. We also known from pottery found in ancient ruins that in the primitive times humanity had already put wheat on flat stones, struck, crushed, or shattered it with stones.
As time went by, the production of flour increased, and among Romans we witness the first producers, using slaves and livestock as power for their work.Later in Greece, horizontal water mills were invented, followed by gird wheel mills in Rome and windmills in the Great Britain and the Netherlands.
During the 17th century, in France, the ground powder was once sieved in a millstone, and the coarse part was separated. Then the powder was milled and sieved again. This process is called the "gradual milling method". With the 19th century "roller mill" were finally introduced into the process of production.
When did wheat appear in Japan?
It is estimated that wheat was introduced to Japan around the 1st century BC, and it has been said that wheat cultivation had already begun about the middle of the Yayoi era about 2000 years ago.
2. Knowing the wheat
Wheat used in Japan
The amount of wheat consumed per year in Japan is about 6.4 million tons, making it one of the world's leading consumers. About 8% of wheat produced in Japan is domestically produced, and the remaining 92% is imported. The amount of imported wheat is about 55% from the United States, 26% from Canada, and 19% from Australia. The per capita consumption of flour in Japan is about 33 kg /year.
Wheat types and uses
Wheat is divided between “spring wheat” and “winter wheat” depending on the season of cultivation, “red wheat” and “white wheat” depending on the grain color, and “hard wheat” “intermediate wheat” and “soft wheat” depending on grain hardness.
|Hard wheat||Wheat that contains a lot of proteins and the grains are hard and mainly processed into strong flour. It becomes flour for bread and Chinese noodles. Mainly produced in the United States and Canada.|
|Soft wheat||Wheat low in protein content, with soft grains mainly processed into weak flour. Generally used for cookies, cakes, confectionery and tempura flour. Mainly imported from the United States.|
|The protein content is moderate, as well as the grain hardness. It is mainly processed into medium-strength flour, and it becomes ideal flour for udon and dry noodles. Mainly produced in Australia and domestically in Japan.|
3. Knowing the flour
Types of wheat flour (properties) and uses
There are various types of wheat flour, but it would be easier to understand if we systematically divide them into two categories, classified by application and by grade.
Classification by quality characteristics (by application)
|Strong flour||Medium flour||Weak flour|
|Types of Raw wheat||Hard wheat
|Main applications||Bread, confectionery bread, Chinese noodles, gyoza skins, pizza, etc.||Udon, dried noodles, other dishes, etc.||Cakes, sweets, tempura, other dishes, etc.|
This is how wheat flour is divided in terms of usage. In other words, wheat flour differs into 3 types such as strong flour used for bread and Chinese noodles, medium flour used for dried noodles like udon, noodles and cold noodles, weak flour used for confectionery and tempura. Such varieties are made because the amount and quality of protein (gluten) contained in the flour differs. In addition, such a difference in nature is due to the variety among of the raw wheats that makes the flour.
In addition to the types above, there is also flour called durum semolina used mainly as a special powder for making macaroni pasta.
Classification by grade characteristics (by grade)
|Special flour||First class flour||Second class flour|
|Ash||Near 0.30〜0.35%||Near 0.35〜0.45%||Near 0.45〜0.60%|
This is how to divide the wheat flour by its purity (the degree of wheat skin fragments), into 3 types such as special flour, first-class flour and second-class flour. The indicator of this division is the amount of ash. This is the remaining ash when the flour is burned, and the more is the ash content, the worse will be the color of the flour.
As mentioned above, wheat flour can be classified according by grade as well as by usage, resulting in the production of different wheat flours.
Protein gluten with special wheat flour
When water is added to flour and kneaded, a gummy substance with viscosity and stretch is formed. This substance is called gluten.
Gluten is composed of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which have the property of being insoluble in water. The stretch of glutenin together with the stretch of gliadin makes the gluten. The softness of the bread as the chewy texture of the udon and Chinese noodles is then due to gluten.
What is the best flour for Chinese noodles?
As explained earlier, there can be used various types of wheat flour for one bite of noodles, so it is necessary to select wheat flour according to its final usage. Thus, referring to the classification of wheat flour above, the first class strong flour is said to be the most suitable flour for Chinese noodles.
However, even within the same strong flour, there are special ones used for bread and for Chinese noodles, classified as “semi-strong” flour by manufacturers.
In order to produce wheat flour suitable for Chinese noodles, each milling company comprehensively examines the hue as the amount and quality of gluten and then works on product development with a its own raw material combination and flour milling method. However, in case of specific productions as for “Original Sapporo Ramen”, there must be followed national fair trade enforcement regulations concerning the production of raw noodles in which wheat flour with 11.0% or more of protein and 0.38% or less of ash is the standard.
How to store flour
Seal tightly after opening.
Insects are found in various places in our living environment, so naturally they can invade flour. In addition, there could be many foreign bodies nearby. Therefore, please be sure to close the opening part firmly so that insects and foreign bodies do not enter.
Be careful to moisture.
Wheat flour is sensitive to moisture, and if placed in a high temperature or high humidity area, it absorbs moisture, causing mold or lumps, which may affect the quality itself. So please keep it in a cool and dry place.
Avoid strong odors.
Wheat flour has the property of being susceptible to other odors (detergents, kerosene, cosmetics, etc.). The flavor of the flour will be lost, so avoid storing it in a place with strong smell.
As explained, you can easily understand how selecting the right flour for just one bite of noodles needs a deep research and specific study behind. The best way to prepare wheat flour is to choose its right final application.
Source: Yokoyama Flour Co., Ltd.,
Shiroishi-ku, Sapporo 5-5 chome Minami 2-1
Noodle's Secret ~ Kansui lye water
History of Kansui.
There is no a clear origin of the kansui powder (lye water), but it is said that 1700 years ago the water gushing from a lake in the Chinese countryside was used to knead the wheat. The main component of this water was "sodium carbonate". After that, the lake was dried up during a hot season and the substances left on the shore and on bottom of the lake were used as water- soluble salts.
In Taiwan then the flour was mixed with lye water from baking plant roots, stems and leaves. The main component of this kind of kansui is "potassium carbonate".
Currently, the noodle manufacturers are using almost 100% of the powdered kansui (solid kansui according to the law). Its color is white and the composition is mainly a mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate. Sometimes phosphate is also added.
Now, only the products that have passed the analysis prescribed by the Food Sanitation Law of April 1987 issued by the Japan Food Additives Association can be labeled as "suitable for kansui and used safely as a food additive. In the past, less quality products such as industrial caustic soda, sodium silicate, and washing soda were used as raw materials for water treatment resulting in a big problem.
The effect of kansui on wheat flour
When kansui is added to wheat flour, proteins（gluten）increase its stretch and spreadability resulting into a taste thick and smooth. This is because gluten has the property of converging when it encounters inorganic and alkaline substances.
To compare the effects of salt and water on the flour, if water is added to the flour noodles will be elastic but with no firmness. On the other hand if salt is added, the stiffness becomes stronger but noodles will not be elastic. Otherwise with kansui noodles will have both ashi (stretch) and koshi (firmness) (as their features. For this reason ramen noodle have a unique consistence.
In addition, the flavonoid dyes present in the flour meet the alkalinity of the kansui and develop a pale yellow color. (However, in order to make Sapporo Ramen look more delicious, the color is adjusted with vitamin B2). Furthermore, this reaction brings also to noodles their peculiar flavor.
Now you can understand how kansui has created a perfect combination for Sapporo Ramen taste and flavor resulting is a must-have ingredient for ramen noodles.
Kansui vocabulary ~ What does "Baumé scale" mean?
The concentration of various liquids is generally measured with the "Baumé scale". In this pair of hydrometer scales, one scale measures the density of liquids heavier than water and the other, liquids lighter than water. A Baumé hydrometer indicates as 0 Baumé a point that coincides with the water surface when placed in pure water (15 ° C). When placed in a 10% saline solution (15 ° C) it indicates 10 Baumé, resulting divided into 10 equal parts with same interval. However, if the Baumé hydrometer is put inside a solution with 10% of kansui, it will not reach 10 degrees like the 10% saline solution. That because the nature of the solid melted is different.
Source: Yokoyama Foods Co., Ltd.14-chome, Heiwa-dori, Shiroishi-ku, Sapporo City 4th No. 1
The big reason why Sapporo Ramen is delicious is that it uses only high quality water coming directly from the snow of mount Teine near Sapporo. We can say that where there is good water then a good ramen is produced. Kitakata Ramen that uses water from the snow of Mount Iide, or Sano Ramen made with water Izuruhara Benten pond (one of the 100 best waters in Japan) are good examples.
Water must be the 35% of the raw wheat at the beginning of noodles making process. This shows how important is the role of water.
Water can be supplied directly from the ground but in some case it is necessary to meet the quality standard of Water Supply Act. In addition PH, alkalinity and hardness must be measured as well.
PH indicates hydrogen ion concentration, and it is a representation in numbers of acidity and alkalinity. Generally, it is said that slightly neutral alkaline level is good in the preparation of ramen noodles.
Alkalinity refers to the content of alkaline substances contained in water. The alkaline substance melt Ca and Mg when passing through rocks containing limestone or carbon dioxide gas dissolved in rainwater, or generated by respiration of organisms in the soil, and release it into water. In noodle making, it is desirable that a low alkalinity, generally 20 ppm or less is good.
Hardness is a numerical measure of the amount of magnesium and calcium ions dissolved into water, and it is one of the important criteria for referring to water quality under the names of "soft water" and "hard water". When making ramen, "hard water" with high alkalinity is considered unsuitable, while "soft water" is thought to be good.
Despite further explanations are avoided here, good water is an extremely important element in the preparation of ramen. For this reason water is often treated when used to make ramen in Honshu.
Note: ppm indicates parts per million 1 ppm is 0.001g / 1000g